Book Talk: *The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks*, by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. LockhartThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
E. Lockhart (blog)
Hyperion (2009), Paperback (ISBN 0786838191 / 9780786838196)
Fiction (YA), 352 pages
Source: personal/purchased copy
Reason for reading: Fall 2010 Readathon

Opening Lines: “I, Frankie Landau-Banks, hereby confess that I was the sole mastermind behind the mal-doings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. I take full responsibility for the disruptions caused by the Order — including the library lady, the doggies in the window, night of a thousand dogs, the canned beet rebellion and the abduction of the guppy.
That is, I wrote the directives telling everyone what to do.
I, and I alone.
No matter what Porter Welsch told you in his statement.”

Book Description:
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.
Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.
Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

Comments: To everyone’s surprise – including her own – Frankie Landau-Banks made the proverbial transformation from ugly (well, average) duckling to swan during the summer between her freshman and sophomore years at Alabaster Prep. Returning to school without the comforting oversight of her older sister Zada, now graduated and off at Berkeley, she’s a new person – or, at the very least, an unrecognizable one. While she’s miffed that she seemingly made so little impression on people the year before, she’s definitely making one now, and she’s captured the notice of her long-time crush, senior Matthew Livingston.

Frankie’s father attended Alabaster, and he’s told tales of a secret society from his days there; rumors are that it’s still around, and Frankie suspects that her boyfriend and his friends know something about it. The thing about secrets is that, one way or another, someone with the determination to crack them usually finds a way to do it – and when the person who cracks a secret knows something about it that you don’t, power shifts.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is propelled by subterfuge and secret plots, but there’s more to it than that. It’s about challenging expectations and traditions, girl power vs. Old Boys, identity politics and social maneuvering. It’s not just about high-school life; it’s boarding-school life, where the intensity of high school ramps up because you’re always there. And it’s about Frankie Landau-Banks, whose sudden external changes are the catalyst for reassessing who she is on the inside, and for wanting to prove that she’s more than what she is on the outside. She is certainly not her family’s “Bunny Rabbit” any more; she is an emerging feminist with an active, inquiring mind of her own.

I loved this book from the first chapter. Frankie is one of the sharpest characters I’ve met lately, and I adored her. The story is smart, and so is the writing – it’s funny, yet thoughtful, and rings true. I’m begging my 16-year-old to read The Disreputable History… – I hope she will, because I think she’ll love Frankie too. I’m not sure how you could not love Frankie. But since I’m having a hard time articulating exactly why I loved her story so much, I’ll refer you to the Book Blogs Search Engine for other reviews – including Nymeth‘s insightful analysis, which is what made me finally pick this one up. It was a perfect kick-off to the Fall Readathon.

Rating: 4.25/5

This book counts for the RYOB 2010 Challenge (13/20)

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